Friday, April 10, 2015


NOW that its willingness to downgrade the country’s claim to Sabah to strengthen its case against China before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal had been exposed, the Department of Foreign Affairs is resorting to classic diversionary tactics- questioning the journalists’ motives in writing the report.

It is now joined by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

De Lima has been quoted in several reports as having said that VERA Files’ March 30 story “PH offers Sabah to win Malaysia’s support for UN case vs China” as a “misinterpretation.”

De Lima’s quotes: “I think it’s a misinterpretation to say that the Philippines is giving up on its claim on Sabah in exchange for Malaysia’s support against China. I didn’t read anything to that effect in the note verbale…

“It is only the DFA which can really confirm the content of the note verbale. So the motive of this misinformation is really puzzling…

“It’s a diplomatic matter. It concerns diplomatic relations and diplomatic relations are covered by confidentiality.”

I’m one of the trustees and writers of VERA Files and I resent De Lima’s casting aspersions on our reason for writing the story.

I’d like to borrow a quote from the eminent Salvador P. Lopez, writer, journalist, educator, diplomat, and statesman to answer De Lima: “ Basically, the journalist is required to inform the people - and to inform them correctly and consistently and (as is often demanded) courageously with the end in view of enabling the people to properly understand what goes on and impelling them to act on situations and problems more than as mere individuals but as a nation, a people in their behalf.”

Public interest was foremost in our mind when we decided to release the story . Besides, the Note Verbale was not classified as “confidential.”

Lawyer Romel Bagares, a former journalist, said public interest overrides whatever classification the DFA has stamped on the document. “ No easy and breathless assertion by government that the Note Verbale pertains to national security can cancel out its grave implications to the integrity of the national territory.”

As to the De Lima’s statement that she read the Note Verbale in VERA Files website and “didn’t read anything to that effect,” I’m not really surprised.

She will not see what she doesn’t want to see.

I’m re-printing this statement released by VERA Files last week to counter the government’s mis-information:

“The Department of Foreign Affairs is misleading the public when it says “Sabah is not in any way part of the note verbale the Philippine government sent recently to Malaysia in denying VERA Files’s story “PH offers Sabah to win Malaysia’s support for UN case vs China.”

“Note Verbale No. 15-1979 sent to Malaysia, the basis of VERA Files’ story, stated that it is reviewing the Aug. 4, 2009 protest (No. 000819) it filed with the United Nations. The Philippines’ August 2009 protest, contained in two pages, singles out North Borneo or the old name of Sabah.

“The Philippines took issue with an earlier joint submission by Vietnam and Malaysia for the extended continental shelf because it “lays claims on areas that are disputed not only because they overlap with that of the Philippines, but also because of the controversy arising from the territorial claims on some of the islands in the area including North Borneo.”

“Contrary to DFA’s comment that putting out the story was a disservice to the country, VERA Files released the story in the interest of the public to help it fully understand the issues involved. “



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